Director – Josh Anthony
Cast – Josh Anthony, Michael Barbuto, Ben Blenkle, Jessica Garvin, Teddy Gilmore, Shondale Seymour, Anne Taylor
Release Year – 2014
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is one of those films that I go into blind, having not seen a trailer nor reading into the plot aside from a basic summary. I didn’t even know Drew Barrymore is an executive producer for the film. The poster looked cool and it had a decent rating on IMDb so I figured I had nothing to lose – at the worst it would be decent. Well, I was wrong. On the surface Happy Camp may look like an OK film, but when the end credits hit I had been left with a very mediocre experience.
Michael Tanner has lived a life of despair after the strange disappearance of his younger brother 20 years prior. With his girlfriend and a few friends serving as the film crew, Michael returns to the town where his brother was abducted, and with terrifying results.
Writers Josh Anthony, Michael Barbuto, and Anne Taylor, all actors in the film as well, kick things off with some horrific facts behind the rural town of Happy Camp. 625 people have gone missing from the area, with Michael’s brother disappearing in 1989. To this day Michael still suffers from nightmares associated with the incident, so his girlfriend comes up with a plan to help him face his demons – literally. Before long they arrive at Happy Camp and the locals are not happy about outsiders snooping around. The first bit of slight horror hits the screen at the 22-minute mark, but after that the horror subsides for a very long time. Instead, we are treated to conflict stemming from Michael’s strenuous psychological state as a result of his return to the source of his issues. This is the case until the 63-minute mark, which is pretty terrible when you consider that the film is only 73 minutes long. I did somewhat enjoy the horror from this point out, mostly because it involved Bigfoot. I had no clue the film’s antagonist would be the famed missing link, but then again I did little research on the film beforehand. Unlike other recent Bigfoot films, like the positive Willow Creek and the lame Lost Coast Tapes, we actually get a good look at Bigfoot here. While I applaud this, it was of course too little and too late.
Writer and actor Josh Anthony also directs the film, and his direction is only slightly better than his screenplay. He sets an OK mood and achieves decent performances from his actors but that is as good as his direction gets. The tension is rarely present and the few jolts provided are tame and lead nowhere. When the goods finally do hit, the horror does little to take control of the mess the previous 63 minutes left us with. The final ten minutes consist of a poorly crafted CGI Bigfoot that may leave some of you laughing at how terrible he looks. Despite this, I will give props to the filmmakers for at least giving some Bigfoot action, which can’t be said for the films I mentioned in the paragraph above. We see most of the film’s kills during these final 10 minutes, and they were decent at best. There is little gore and the kills aren’t very shocking, but that should not surprise you given how basic this flick is.
Overall, Happy Camp is a disappointment no matter how you look at this. If you look at this as a Bigfoot film it has a poor payoff, and if you look at this as a general horror film it still has a weak payoff. If you want Bigfoot I still recommend you watch Willow Creek or one of the classics like The Legend of Boggy Creek.